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51 Days Until The Season Begins

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Cam Lewis
1 month ago
Throughout the summer and into the fall, we’ll be counting down the days until the Edmonton Oilers begin their 2023-24 season with a daily trip down memory lane. Today at No. 51, we have Andrei Kovalenko, a Russian winger who had one of the best seasons of his career with the Oilers.
Kovalenko played for CSKA Moscow and made a name for himself internationally when he scored 11 points across seven games for the Soviet Union at the 1990 World Juniors. He was selected by the Quebec Nordiques in the eighth round of the 19990 draft and came overseas to join the team a few years later.
In his rookie season in 1992-93, Kovalenko scored 27 goals and 68 points. He played two more seasons in Quebec and was part of the inaugural Colorado Avalanche team in 1995-96 after the Nordiques packed up and relocated.
During that same season, Kovalenko was moved along with Martin Rucinsky and Jocelyn Thibault to the Montreal Canadiens for star goaltender Patrick Roy, who had requested a trade after being shelled for nine goals in a loss to the Detroit Red Wings a few days earlier.
Kovalenko, Rucinsky, and Thibault helped the Habs make the playoffs with a 40-32-10 record but the team lost in the first round to the New York Rangers. The Avs, meanwhile, went on to win the Stanley Cup.
The following off-season, Kovalenko was shipped to the Oilers in exchange for Scott Thornton. While Thornton had once been a highly-touted prospect who went with the third overall pick in the 1989 draft, this was a pretty lopsided one-for-one swap. Thornton had 24 goals across 242 games in the NHL while Kovalenko had 85 goals in 261 games.

Edmonton Journal Newspaper Clipping From September 7, 1996.

PLAYER COUNTDOWN PRESENTED BY BETWAY


Kovalenko hit the ground running in Edmonton. He finished second on the team with 32 goals in 1996-97 and was second behind only Doug Weight and Ryan Smyth with 59 points. In the playoffs, he added four goals and seven points as the Oilers shocked the Dallas Stars in the first round before bowing out to Kovalenko’s former team, the Avs, in the second round.
The following spring, the Oilers beat the Avalanche in the first round of the playoffs, but Kovalenko didn’t suit up because he was injured. He struggled through a difficult season and saw his production decline to just six goals and 23 points over 59 games.
Kovalenko rebounded for the Oilers in 1998-99 with 13 goals and 27 points over the team’s first 43 games of the season. In January, he was moved to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for Alexandre Daigle. The former first-overall pick never played a game for the Oilers and was immediately flipped to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Alexander Selivanov.
Selivanov finished odd the 1998-99 seasons with eight goals and 14 points over 29 games for the Oilers and then scored 27 goals and 47 points across 67 games in 1999-00 before leaving the team in free agency. Kovalenko, meanwhile, played just a handful of games with the Flyers before getting traded to the Carolina Hurricanes for Adam Burt.
Kovalenko played one more season with Carolina and another with the Boston Bruins before heading back overseas to play in the Russian Super League. He won the Russian League Championship with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl in 2002 and 2003 and was also named Most Valuable Player in both seasons. He spent two seasons with Avangard Omsk and three with Severstal Cherepovets before retiring in 2008.

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